The history of massage therapy dates as far back to the 5th dynasty of the old kingdom which was between - 2686BC to 2181BC. This was the ancient/early Egyptian times when references were first made to the benefits of massage. In the artworks on the tomb of Ptahlotep it has imagery of what is lead to be believed as him having a manicure and pedicure along with his legs being massaged by a servant. Some convey this imagery as the earliest depictions of positive record of massage.
In the 6th dynasty of the old kingdom on the sun temple’s walls show imagery of King Niuseurre enjoying a foot massage along with various other imagery showing preparation of oils.
Another reference is to the tomb of the physician – Ankmahor; in his tomb it shows artworks of two men having work done on their feet and hands. It was not until 3000BC that massage was recognised as having healing values. The Chinese were the first of many to acknowledge massage therapy as a way of healing the body and soul.
Massage was portrayed as a way of relaxation, both roman and Greek philosophers prescribed it to restore after war and for general preservation of the body and mind. Massage soon became part of a daily regime for relaxation, after bathing oils were used to rub the body from head to toe in preparation for a massage.
Over time herbalists resorted to massage to heal body and soul by using balms/oils and by laying their hands on the suffering to exude any evil spirits lingering and to clear the mind.
Massage became more popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with credit made to the works of Per Henrik Ling (1776 – 1839), a Swedish man who travelled to China to learn their massage techniques and returned after to progress from what he learnt to originate his own system of massage based on various types of movements consisting of pressure, friction, vibration and rotation. Ling’s system was soon spread worldwide; it was not long before both medical and non medical fields of expertise looked into the benefits of massage therapy. Ling’s system is basically the foundations of what massage is today which mostly is the same as the early Swedish techniques Ling created.
Massage therapy can be used as an adjunctive treatment alongside homeopathy, aromatherapy, naturopathy, nutritional medicine, kinesiology, chiropractics and/or osteopathy as it does not interfere with the body’s natural abilities to heal and restore homeostasis.
Massage can be used for many health complaints it does come with some contraindications such as deep vein thrombosis. Massage is often used to relieve chronic stress emotionally, mentally and physically which is an underlying cause of many illnesses.
The underpinning philosophy of massage originated from the natural medicine philosophy and principles as a whole. The natural medicine philosophy offers guidelines to the practice of massage as it is a form of healthcare that recognises and draws on the body’s natural ability to heal itself by treating the whole person.
Ancientegyptonline.co.uk, (2015). Ancient Egypt Society: Massage in Ancient Egypt. Retrieved 23 July 2017, from http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/massage.html
Casanelia, L. & Stelfox, D. (2010). Foundations of massage (1st ed). Sydney, NSW: Churchill Livingstone.
McGilvery, C., & Reed, J. (1994). Step-by-step massage. New York: SMITHMARK.
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